What We Do Here All Day

You may wonder…what do they do all day? Do they just visit national parks and eat dinner with people and pick berries?! Because, they could do all of that back home! Well, not the berry picking…because we live in a desert back home and berries just don’t grow there…except in a very special place called Walmart.

So, what do we do here? We learn. We are taking three classes each right now, two of which we are both in together so we get to be study buddies and lab partners and the people who sit waayy too close to each other to just be ‘friends’.

For those who really want to know (feel free to stop reading if you’re only here for the pictures), we thought we’d post our best effort at a brief description of the classes we are taking. So, let’s go!

Class Number 1: Language and Culture Acquisition (LACL)

For those who are not familiar with what we are all about, please click here to understand better why we travel such a long ways to take these classes. In brief, we are learning in this class how to learn an unwritten language. This class is not about learning any language in particular (though we do get to practice on one), so much as it is about how we learn languages. This may sound intuitive. You just, walk into some tribe and hear some things the people say to you and think about it and BAM! You are a fluent, native, all-tribe speaking prodigy!

Well, it turns out, that isn’t how it works. It is, in fact, hard work just to figure out how to learn. So, this class introduces us to methods and games and learning styles and then puts us in a situation where we get to immediately apply it and try it out.

Once a week, we meet with our friend, Esther, who is from a village in the Philippines and speaks a language called Illocano. No one gives us a lesson plan, we speak as little English as possible and then we start pointing at objects and doing things and asking, “What am I doing?” We listen, a lot. Esther repeats things a lot. And then we go home and talk through what worked and what didn’t and revise our whole way of doing things. It’s actually really great and the reading required for the class might just be the best reading I’ve ever done for any class I’ve taken.

Class Number 2: Ethnography

Hmm…how to describe this class? Whereas LACL focuses most on learning the language, ethnography focuses on learning the culture. We go observe someplace once a week for two hours. We observe people, places, objects and try to make no assumptions, draw no conclusions…basically, pretend that we are aliens. But not the mean kind. The nice kind that smile a lot.

What is the benefit of this course, you might ask? Someday, perhaps not long from now, we will, Lord willing, be living in a village and observing a culture very different from our own. Something that we might assume to be a chair, might in fact have a totally different purpose. We might think people are dancing, but maybe it’s something completely different. So, you wait. And observe. And draw pictures (or, if you’re me, squiggly lines on a page that only you know what they mean). And observe some more. It has been a useful class in having us realize just how many conclusions we draw without even realizing it.

It’s harder to be aliens in Canada than we thought.

Matt Class Number 3: Syntax and Semantics

Yup. Syntax and Semantics. So, that about sums it up and I’m sure there are no other questions, right? This class expands on the Grammar class we took two years ago. It examines different languages and how the structure of their words relates to their meaning. This a is a helpful class for translation work that we anticipate doing one day.


Cameron Class number 3: Literacy

This is a book that I learned how to make in my Literacy class. This class teaches me what questions are necessary and helpful to ask when planning a literacy class in a tribe someday. There are different kinds of literacy programs (those designed for adults, children, people who are literate maybe in one language, but not another, etc.) and I am learning their differences and how best to serve whoever might be in that class one day.

I am learning how to make books when you have few materials and how to motivate people to want to read and write their own language…a whole world of things I didn’t know I didn’t know.

That’s It!

So, there you have it! Between class lectures, class labs and homework, we’re pretty much busy here all the time. But this is why we came. And we are glad we are here.


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